What I want my daughter to know before her brother is born

I originally wrote these words two weeks before my son was born in January of 2013. I was preparing to become a mother of two. And I also tried to prepare my daughter for becoming a big sister. While we have grown and changed throughout these years, the message here remains the same.

As I get closer and closer to having our baby boy, I’ve been thinking about the things I want my daughter to know. I know that becoming a big sister will forever change her life. Because I am the youngest of two, I will never completely know her station in a family. I’ve never been an oldest sibling. I know my own older brother wasn’t too excited to have to share our parents with me when I was born, but I like to think he came around eventually.

Right now, my daughter is excited. She talks about the things she will teach Baby Brother. When my parents and in-laws were here painting his nursery just over a week ago, she sat at the kitchen table and painted him pictures to hang on his wall. With every stroke of her paintbrush, she talked about how he would love them. And he will one day. We will hang them on the wall in the midst of the superhero art we’ve chosen as the nursery theme.

However, she still doesn’t really know what’s coming. We’ve tried to prepare her as much as possible by explaining that Baby Brother will be small to start with and not able to play with her. We’ve explained that he might cry a lot, because that’s the only way babies can communicate (or “investigate” as she sometimes mistakenly says). I’ve even mentioned to her that he might wake mommy up a lot a night, so I might be more tired after he’s born. I’ve talked with her a little bit about nursing so she’s not utterly shocked or anything. 

But, I can’t explain to her what having a newborn in the house is like. I can’t really explain to her what it’s like to go from an only child to a sibling because I’ve never done it. I was born a sibling. So was my husband.

I am incredibly excited to have this new member of our family. At the same time, I know it will be an adjustment for my daughter (and us!). I’ve been praying about it. And I’ve been thinking about what I want her to know before he’s born and she becomes a big sister. There are things I tell her, but there are other things that she just isn’t old enough to understand, yet. Some things I want her to know I will just have to show her and go without saying because she’s still only a 3-year-old.

I will always love you.

I want my daughter to know that no matter what, I will always love her. My heart is big enough to love two children. I have loved my husband for so long and love him so completely. I can’t imagine life without him. When our daughter was born, my heart grew to include a deep love for her that is complete and so strong it takes my breath away. Already my heart has grown to love this child along with my daughter. A mother’s heart has plenty of room for love.  I never want my daughter to question that. I want her to always feel my love.

Having a sibling is cool.

I want my daughter to know that having a sibling is cool. My brother and I aren’t super close, but he’s my brother. He’s the one other person in this world who grew up with the exact same parents I did. We’ve been through challenges together throughout the years. We’ve learned how to work together to help our family through crisis as adults like we did back in 2005 when my dad had an accident and his life dangled precariously in the balance for weeks. 

I want my daughter to know that her brother will be her brother for life. And she’ll always be his big sister. My prayer is that the two of them are close and have a good friendship and relationship. I want her to know that even when she has times he drives her crazy (and vice versa!) that at the end of the day, they will still have each other and the love of a sibling.

Being a big sister is an important job.

I want my daughter to know that she will be a role model. One thing I know as a younger sibling is how much we look up to our older siblings. I looked up to my brother and my cousin who was like another older brother for years. Her Baby Brother will do the same. It’s a cool responsibility to be a role model. She’ll be a good big sister with her compassionate heart and sensitive spirit. I’m excited to see how she rocks her big sister journey.

You don’t have to be a little mama.

I want my daughter to know that she’s a good helper, but she doesn’t have to be a little mother. She only has to be a big sister. My daughter loves to help around the house. With any task we’re working on, she’ll ask if we need help and try to help however she can. There have been many times I’ve carried the laundry basket lower through the house so she can hang on to one end and help me with it. She loves helping unload the dishwasher. Yesterday she wanted to help wipe down Baby Brother’s crib, so I armed her with a baby wipe and she had a great time. She just loves to help.

I will love for her to help and feel included with the baby, but I never want her to think she is responsible for him. First and foremost she is a little girl and I want her to enjoy being a little girl for as long as she can.

Life can be good, even when it’s difficult.

I want my daughter to know that even when life doesn’t seem fair, it’s still good. I know there will be struggles coming our way with who’s getting the most attention. Newborns are needy. They aren’t one bit understanding. Honestly, 3-year-olds aren’t super different in that department. There will be times she won’t think it’s fair for me to be doing something with the baby when she’d rather I was playing with her. I know that will happen. It can’t be avoided. 

But I want her to know life is still good. I want her to come to understand that if she gives me a few minutes to take care of Baby Brother then I will have more time to peacefully play with her later. And when he gets older and does things like knock over the blocks she’s building or tears a page in her favorite book, I pray she’ll have compassion and understanding with him.

You will always be my baby girl.

I want my daughter to know that she will always be my baby girl. I tell her this often. She agrees that even though she’s a big girl now, she’s OK with still being my baby girl. But, she doesn’t really know what I mean. What I mean is that no matter how big she gets, I’ll never forget the first time I saw her after she was born. I’ll never forget looking deep into her eyes during middle-of-the-night feedings and wondering about the person she’d become. I’ll never forget snuggling close with her at all stages of her life thus far. Of course, I’ll never forget her first steps or her first words. I’ll never forget her own language she created for a while before she could really talk. 

There are so many things that I’ll always remember every time I look at her. She is my precious girl. And just because I will have another baby with whom to experience so many of these things doesn’t make the times I shared with her any less precious.

Change is coming around these parts. It will be good, and it will bring challenges. My daughter continues to have lessons to learn as she navigates life and my son will be coming right behind her. Their dad and I have a big responsibility in raising them together. We’ve all got messages we need to hear from one another loud and clear, even when they come through actions. After all, that’s what being a family is all about.

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About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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A message for my oldest before she becomes a big sisterA message for my oldest before she becomes a big sister